Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Reid, George William
REID, GEORGE WILLIAM (1819–1887), keeper of the department of prints and drawings at the British Museum, born in London on 6 July 1819, was son of George Reid, a draughtsman and teacher of drawing, who afterwards became an attendant in the print-room. He was educated as an artist, but in 1842 he received an appointment as an attendant in the department of prints and drawings in the British Museum, from which position he was promoted to be an assistant in 1865. On the decease of William Hookham Carpenter [q. v.], Reid was on 1 Aug. 1866 advanced to the keepership, which he held until his retirement on 20 Dec. 1883. He possessed a most exact and comprehensive knowledge of prints, and of their commercial value. Great additions were made to the national collection during his tenure of office as keeper, the most important of which were the Henderson bequest of watercolour drawings, comprising 164 fine examples of the work of Turner, Girtin, David Cox, William James Müller, Canaletto, and John Robert Cozens; the Crace collection of maps, plans, and views of London; the Hawkins collection of English satirical prints; the Slade bequest of engravings; the Anderson collection of Japanese and Chinese drawings; the collection of proofs and prints of Turner's ‘Liber Studiorum,’ formed by John Pye; Hollar's great view of Cologne; and the series of six plates of the Triumphs of Petrarch, ascribed to Fra Filippo Lippi, all in the earliest states, which were formerly in the Sunderland Library at Blenheim.
Several valuable departmental catalogues were prepared under his supervision, and he caused to be printed and published, besides some exhibition guides, the ‘Catalogue of Political and Personal Satires,’ by Mr. F. G. Stephens, in four volumes, 1870–83; the ‘Descriptive Catalogue of Playing and other Cards,’ by Dr. W. H. Willshire, 1876; the ‘Descriptive Catalogue of Early Prints in the British Museum: German and Flemish Schools,’ also by Dr. Willshire, in two volumes, 1879–83. He likewise selected the examples for the two parts of reproductions of ‘Italian Prints’ issued in 1882–3.
Reid's chief non-official work was a ‘Descriptive Catalogue of the Works of George Cruikshank,’ in three quarto volumes, 1871; but he also wrote introductions and descriptive text to ‘Designs for Goldsmiths, Jewellers, &c., by Hans Holbein,’ twenty photographs from the original drawings in the British Museum, published by the Arundel Society in 1869; ‘A Reproduction of the Salamanca Collection of Prints from Nielli,’ 1869; ‘Albert Dürer and Lucas van Leyden,’ a catalogue of works exhibited at the Burlington Fine Arts Club, 1869; ‘Titian Portraits,’ 1871; ‘Gems of Dutch Art,’ 1872; and ‘Works of the Italian Engravers of the Fifteenth Century, reproduced in facsimile by photo-intaglio,’ 1884, of which the first series only was ever published. He also drew up the catalogue of the prints and etchings in the Dyce collection, South Kensington Museum, and a catalogue in manuscript of the Duke of Devonshire's collection of prints and drawings at Chatsworth, as well as the sale catalogues of the Julian Marshall and other collections of engravings.
Reid died at Heathfield Park, Willesden Green, near London, on 20 Oct. 1887, after a lengthened period of depression and of bad health.
[Times, 26 Oct. 1887; Athenæum, 1887, ii. 573; Academy, 1887, ii. 325.]